Four years ago today, I woke up in a fog like I’ve never experienced before. Everything seemed so bright and I was desperate for something to drink. My throat was raw and I couldn’t feel my legs. It had been nearly a full day since I tried to kill myself and as I slowly started piecing things together, I was flooded with humiliation, dread, and anger.
September 21st is my Mulligan Day. In golf, a mulligan is a “do-over,” a chance to try the shot again. It’s been four years, today. We definitely talk about it less around our house than we used to, but the fact that I have been given a second chance has not faded from my memory. As a friend recently said, childhood sexual abuse and a suicide attempt will always internally define me, but I am no longer defined by them externally. Praise be to God.
I’m alive. What more could I possibly ask for?
I am ALIVE! What else really matters? Of courses other things matter, but when I consider how close we came to my wife having to bury me, the breath in my lungs and another chance at a new day seems like too much to hope for. Somebody said the devil is in the details, and they’re right. Life has plenty of lemons to throw our way, and not all of them can be turned to lemonade, but either way, today I am alive.
For the longest time, I was inhaling and exhaling, but I wasn’t living. I had hurts and fears and bitterness and resentment and mess that nearly killed me. There is no medical reason for me to be here. But I am. Not because I’m so great, but because God is. God let me live and find the life I didn’t even know I had.
If the eyes are the windows to the soul, my eyes weren’t empty, they were just forgetful. They had forgotten to look for the joyful things in life. I am still angry at the injustice that happened to me as a little boy. Child sexual abuse is horrific, unthikable. But I cannot change what happened. What I can do now is try to look for the good in every person and situation. And if I try my hardest and cannot find anything life-giving or beneficial there, I move on.
Another thing I have learned in the past four years is to own my mistakes and the fact that they affect other people. We all mess up. We can’t blame family history or former friends or employers or the government or God on the choices we make. We all make choices and sometimes we make the wrong ones. The best thing any of us can do is focus on today and the people who love us: those who push us to be our best and love us even at our worst. I think about my sweet Lindsey: she sat with me in the ashes, when some would have preferred that she stoke the coals. She is the true picture of God’s grace to me.
Life is worth living. It’s worth fighting through all the hard times and the dry times and the lean times and the mean times. Life is hard, but in my experience, things do usually get better. Fight for love. Fight against destractions that try to put your focus on anything that doesn’t support you and make you better. Cut through the busyness and bullshit and figure out what on earth you’re doing here. Figure out what your reason is for getting out of bed each morning…and then do that with all your heart. If you don’t know what you’re doing here, ask. Ask God, ask a friend who knows God. Find a counselor or therapist or get alone and get quiet and figure out what it is that makes your heart beat.
Then go and do that.
I’m thankful for God’s wonderful grace that has gotten messy with me more times than I can count.
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Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.
Suicide: Let’s Talk about It (podcast)
Pastors and Suicide: How Do We Keep this From Happening Again?
Guest Blog – Worthy and Unashamed: Facing Mental Health Stigma in the Church Head-On
Guest blog: It’s Depression, Not Demon Possession
Guest Post: When You Can’t Erase Your Childhood Religion
Finding God in Stillness
Pastors and Suicide: What Should I Know?
VIDEO: I was a pastor when I nearly died by suicide.
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